18 September 2012, early morning
I woke up last Monday morning and decided to check out another film at TIFF. I looked to see what films were screening in the afternoon at the Lightbox, and noticed one called Him, Here, After. Taking a closer look I learned it was a Sri Lankan movie about a Tamil Tiger heading home to Jaffna after the war. What were the chances? I bought a ticket and got back to work, which ended up being all kinds of crazy. I had to run to the theatre to make the film. Literally. I passed Tiff on my way there. We spoke briefly while I caught my breath. I am in poor shape.
The film is quite good, and I thought much better than the other Sri Lankan art films I’ve seen at TIFF (The Foresaken Land, Between Two Worlds). It’s quiet and thoughtful. The unnamed protagonist returns to Jaffna with no fanfare. The film is about him trying to start a new life. No one is happy to see him back. He struggles to find work and reintegrate in to civilian life. No doubt you’ve seen that story play out before. The Hughes brothers film Dead Presidents is the first that comes to my mind. The film isn’t quite so bleak, but it definitely doesn’t wrap things up nicely. A very strong performance by Niranjani Shanmugaraja is what makes the film. Our screening concluded with a Q&A with Michael Ignatief, which I didn’t think was particularly good. He didn’t really have anything too insightful to discuss. He spent a long time complaining about fund raising for the Tigers in Toronto, which is admitidly bad, but felt a bit off topic. One thing I did learn in the Q&A was that the title of the film is a play on words. Ini Avan translate to “him hereafter”, while the single word Iniavan translates to “sweet man”. The director said he was trying to present an LTTE solider as a more nuanced complicated figure than one sees in the Sri Lankan press. I think he succeeded here.